U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that U.N. experts seeking to collect evidence from an apparent chemical attack in Syria that killed hundreds of people will report to him as soon as they leave the country Saturday.
Ban said he had spoken to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the situation in Syria, discussing how "we can expedite the process of investigation.
"I have also expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," Ban told reporters.
Ban said the inspectors will report to him after finishing their two-week mission that was originally intended to probe earlier alleged chemical attacks in Syria. He asked the international community to allow the team to finish its investigation and present evidence before anyone decides on how to respond.
The Speaker of the Syrian parliament has written to his counterpart in London inviting a British parliamentary delegation to visit Damascus as soon as possible.
President Obama said he has not decided on any action, but with his administration convinced the Syrian government is at fault, he vowed that those who break international norms need to be held accountable.
Obama told PBS television\’s NewsHour Wednesday that any military strike would be limited, sending President Bashar al-Assad a message that future chemical weapons attacks would not be tolerated. He said he has no interest in an open-ended conflict in Syria.
The most likely option, US officials say, would be to launch cruise missiles from US ships in the Mediterranean in a campaign that would last several days.
Obama cited chemical weapons dangers to the US Middle Eastern allies Israel, Turkey and Jordan plus the US bases in the region, and said the US national interests could be at risk if Syrian chemical arms fell into the wrong hands.
Some US lawmakers, meanwhile, are calling for Obama to seek congressional approval for a military action.
Specifically, in a letter to Obama, House Speaker John Boehner said it was "essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified".
Syria, which is believed to have one of the world\’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, has denied the charges.
Syria\’s government blamed rebel "terrorists" for releasing the toxins with the help of the US, Britain and France, and said it would be a "graveyard of invaders".
Syrian officials say the West is playing into the hands of its al-Qaeda enemies.
French President Francois Hollande has also yet to decide about a military intervention. But on Thursday, after meeting Ahmed Jarba, the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Hollande said a political solution would only be possible if "the international community can put a temporary stop to this escalation in violence".
Meanwhile, the Chinese state newspaper China Daily has warned there are no excuses for air strikes on Syria – with an editorial accusing Western powers of acting as judge, jury and executioner before the UN has completed its investigation.
Russia, President Bashar al-Assad\’s main international ally, also says it opposes any foreign military intervention in Syria.
Russia is sending an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the eastern Mediterranean.
The ships are being sent to strengthen the navy\’s presence in the area because of the "well-known situation" there, the Russian news agency Interfax has said.
Britain says it is sending six Typhoon fighter jets to Cyprus, in what it says is a measure to protect British bases there.
Earlier on Wednesday, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a draft resolution from the British seeking authorisation for the use of force.
Syria has been embroiled in a war for more than two years, during which more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced or become refugees in other countries, according to the United Nations.